The 2015 Movie Superlatives

Okay. One week into 2016 and we finally have the last of my End of the Year posts. Welcome, friends, to the 2015 Movie Superlatives! (Feel free to imagine some loud cheering here, like you’re at a colosseum death match or something.)

Other people are around to tell you the Most Raw Method Performance or the Most Inspirational True Life Story of Whoever. I rarely watch those kinds of movies, though, unless someone’s forcing me to. If, on the other hand, you want to know who won awards like Worst Romance, Most Fabulous Fashion, and Chief Asshat, well, you’ve come to the right place.

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“Sir, Ethan Hunt is the Living Manifestation of Destiny.”

About four years ago, my sister, my buddy, and I all went to the movie theater to see Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. I had almost zero expectations at the time, having not been invested in the series since, oh, 1996, and surprised myself by really enjoying it. So, of course, we had to go see Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. (Although, according to some annoying blogger and his wife, Shirtless Tom Cruise is the only reason we REALLY went.)

I’m not sure if I liked it more than Ghost Protocol or not, but one way or the other, I had a pretty great time.

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“What A Day, What A Lovely Day!”

I knew I’d watch Mad Max: Fury Road because I’d already seen all the other Mad Max movies — and, well, Tom Hardy. Hardy won my heart in Inception (him and JGL, anyway), so I’m always excited whenever he pops up in something I actually have interest in. Plus, my Twitter feed has been blowing up about this movie since it first came out, and I just knew I’d have to see it for myself. So, on Monday, I finally did.

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The action. Oh, you guys . . . the action in this movie is godamn glorious.

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“There Are No Strings On Me.”

It’s 10:00 p.m. Thursday night. I’m sitting in an aisle seat at the Roxy Theater and the Marvel credits have just started to play. My little hands are clasped loosely together. I can actually feel the childish hope written all over my face.

Ignore Spider-Man. Spider-Man is a lie.

Overall, Avengers: Age of Ultron is fast-paced, funny, and pretty enjoyable, especially for a movie that’s 2 1/2 hours long. Despite that, I can’t help but feel a little disappointed with the finished product.

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Top 10 Favorite Final Girls

Last week, a friend of mine sent me a list of someone’s favorite final girls. I eagerly clicked on the link — because lists plus horror equals yay! — only to find myself completely enraged by the inclusion of Marie from High Tension, which . . . no. I absolutely refuse to accept Marie as a final girl because she fucking isn’t one. The term is somewhat open to interpretation (as I’ll briefly discuss later) but seriously, no. That movie, I swear to God.

Moving on. I knew I’d have to make my own list of favorite final girls in response, which would be difficult because most lists include boring heroines like Sally from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Jess from Black Christmas. I like these movies, but unfortunately, final girls with actual personality is a relatively modern invention — and even modern horror regularly fails on that score. And as much as I felt like I should include Sarah from The Descent — for being, you know, all competent and kick-ass, I just couldn’t get past the fact that I really, really disliked her. So until I finally make myself give that movie a second chance, she’s out of the running.

With that in mind — and continuing my penchant for creating blog posts at least one week after time-of-the-year relevancy — here are my favorite final girls.

DISCLAIMER:

There will, rather obviously, be spoilers. In fact, there will be ALL the spoilers. Please don’t assume I’m kidding about the spoilers. Read at your own peril.

Top Ten Favorite Final Girls

10. Jenny (Renée Zellweger) – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation

If you haven’t seen this movie, please understand: this is a terrible film. Do not rent this with the expectation that it will be good, or even vaguely coherent. It will not, and you will be highly disappointed. Even as a so-bad-it’s-good film, it’s . . . well, special. Leatherface alone, I mean, wow. And Jenny, by and large, is not a particularly great heroine because that would imply that she, or any of the other characters in this story, are well-drawn. Obviously, this is not the case.

Still, Jenny has earned a tiny spot in my odd little nostalgic heart. This is partially because TCM: TNG is the movie that introduced me to my love of mocking absurdly awful horror films. But it’s also because of this one moment, where Jenny — wearing the most hideous dress, complete with this weird silver fringe shit and one ridiculously large red flower  — tells Leatherface to “sit the fuck down and shut up.” The delivery is amazing. This is the sound my heart makes when I’m continuously surrounded by aggressively annoying people, and I kind of love her for it.

9. Allison (Katrina Bowden) – Tucker and Dale vs Evil

In a movie where the hillbillies are the good guys and city kids accidentally leap headfirst into wood chippers, Katrina Bowden has the not-entirely-enviable task of playing the stereotypically sweet heroine straight whilst simultaneously making her likable at the same time. But she does a good job with it because I do like Allison. Her best moment in the whole movie is when she tries to do a sit-down therapy session with both Dale, our primary hillbilly protagonist, and Chad, our would-be hero and clear antagonist. It doesn’t work at all, of course. In fact, considering that it ends in three deaths and one cabin explosion, it could be considered a colossal failure, but hey, what’s important is that she tried, right?

8. Cassidy (Briana Evigan) – Sorority Row

Cassidy is your fairly typical final girl: she’s the nice girl in the sorority, the only one who wanted to go to the cops when a prank got their friend killed. (She’s also the first girl on the list who, technically, isn’t a final girl. Final girl and survivor girl are often used interchangeably, but I’m not sure a final girl actually needs to survive. Really, she just needs to be the last girl standing, but Cass isn’t standing alone: two other girls survive with her. But honestly, that’s generally allowed these days. That’s way more acceptable than the idea that Marie from High Tension is a final girl. Sweet baby Christ.)

The thing that makes Cass different from so many other final girls: she’s snarky as hell. Sure, she has a couple of dumb lines that I’d erase if I could. But for the most part, she’s funny and likable, and the chemistry between her and Leah Pipes makes this movie so much more entertaining than I ever thought it would be. (And obviously, Carrie Fisher doesn’t hurt either. Carrie Fisher should play the den mother in every sorority horror film from now on.)

7. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) – Halloween, Halloween 2, Halloween H20: 20 Years Later 

Laurie Strode is one of the few classic final girls I have on my list, and surprisingly, this mostly has to do with H20. I’ll have to give Halloween another chance at some point, but despite some truly awesome music, I never fully warmed up to that movie. (Though, to be fair, it has been quite some time since I’ve seen it.) I did like the sequel, but I barely remember anything about Laurie herself. I got absolutely zero sense of her personality in that film. In H20, though, we get to see what’s become of her after twenty years — has a kid, became a teacher, basically living in fear — and all of that pretty seemed believable to me. I’m all about the evolution of characters, and Laurie Strode’s worked.

Best moment, hands down, is when Laurie decapitates Michael. (We don’t speak of any later films in that franchise because they have ceased to exist. Such is the mighty power of my will. Think about that, and FEAR ME.)

6. Riley (Shanley Caswell) – Detention

So, this movie is nuts. In a much better way than Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation, obviously, but still. NUTS. A surprising number of teens actually survive this movie (including the goth girl, which never happens), but since one of them is an alien and a handful of others travel back in time to save the world — or at least the school — that’s hardly the weirdest thing about Detention.

Every character is kind of a parody in this movie. We have jocks, hipsters, mean girls, nerds. Riley, our heroine, is a sarcastic, vegetarian feminist, and while the movie pokes some fun at her, like it pokes fun at everyone, I personally was never offended. (For the record: I’m sarcastic and a feminist, but not a vegetarian.) Riley’s very funny and likable, and she and Josh Hutcherson make great co-leads. I’ve never seen the actress in anything else, but I’d like to based on this alone.

Best moment? Well, I’m a sucker for the Dirty Dancing esque dance scene to “MMM-Bop,” but that just doesn’t sound very horror, does it? Well, too bad, because it’s what I have at the moment.

5. Dana (Kristen Connolly) – The Cabin in the Woods

Dana makes for a very atypical final girl. When we meet her, she’s dancing without any pants on in full view of an open window. She’s also decidedly not a virgin, although the people who intend to sacrifice her and her friends more or less overlook that. Dana intentionally releases all the monsters trapped in the secret underground lair. She even tries to kill her own friend at the end of the movie, although to be fair, she is trying to save the world at that particular point. I can’t decide if hitting the big red button is her best moment — because it’s pretty badass and leads to the best slaughter scene ever — or if it’s when she apologizes for trying to kill Marty and agrees that maybe the whole world is better off without humanity. That scene is both funny and surprisingly sweet, and it is definitely one of my favorite movie endings of all time.

4. Ginny (Amy Steel) – Friday the 13th: Part Two

I haven’t watched them all yet, but of the Friday the 13th movies I have seen, Ginny is easily my favorite heroine, certainly more interesting than Alice (the girl who directly preceded her) and a thousand times less annoying than Chris (who came directly after). Ginny is smart and sarcastic and doesn’t take any shit from anyone, least of all her boyfriend, which, man. That’s such a refreshing quality in a horror movie heroine.

Also, if memory serves, Ginny is not a virgin, which is even more unusual, considering this movie was made in 1981. (Of course, this is also the movie where going out drinking totally saves one dude’s life, further proving that Part Two is absolutely the best Friday the 13th movie there is.)

Ginny takes Jason down with child psychology and a machete. And admittedly, this is a temporary takedown because Jason always has to pop up for one last annoying scare, but come on . . . you’ve gotta like a final girl whose weapons are child psychology and a machete, right? That’s pretty amazing.

3. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) – Alien, Aliens

Ripley is the only final girl on this list who’s trying to survive an evil alien instead of a psychotic killer, but that doesn’t disqualify her from the running. In fact, Ripley is a fantastic final girl: one of my favorite things about Alien, actually, is that she’s a competent woman but decidedly not an action hero. Or, honestly, even the clear survivor girl. If you could somehow watch Alien for the first time without knowing anything about the franchise or the stars involved — good luck — it wouldn’t be immediately clear that Ripley is your protagonist. Which I think is kind of cool, actually. As a rule, horror tends to be an unfortunately predictable genre where you almost always know who’s going to make it and who won’t. But wouldn’t it be so much more interesting if you didn’t know those things? If watching a scary movie was like watching an episode of Game of Thrones or, come to think of it, The Walking Dead? Horror should really embrace the idea that anyone can die.

By the time Aliens came out, Ripley kind of morphed from an everywoman to a Big Damn Hero, but — much like Laurie Strode — I really enjoy the evolution of her character. Her trauma and fear makes her relatable, but her badassery is empowering and never feels out of character or ridiculous. There aren’t a lot of heroines like Ripley, which is unfortunate and why we need more female-dominated action films, not to mention horror movies with competent, realistic women — not just Nice Girls Who Never Do Bad Things.

As far as Best Moment goes, honestly. Do I even need to say it?

2. Sidney (Neve Campbell) – Scream, Scream 2, Scream 3, Scream 4

Hard core nostalgia for this one, considering Scream was my introduction to the slasher genre. Sidney was the first girl to criticize horror movies for being insulting and horror movie heroines, in particular, for being stupid. She punches Gale Weathers, which possibly isn’t a very mature response but is pretty funny, regardless. I’d been thinking that she was the first non-virgin to survive a slasher movie, but I’m actually pretty sure now that’s Ginny. Still, Scream changed the game entirely for horror, and Sidney ushered in a new line of horror movie heroines.

Her best moment is hard to pick. I love when she turns the situation around on Stu and Billy, donning a Ghostface mask and calling them on the phone. I also like when she kills Emma Roberts with a defibrillator in Scream 4 and creepily lies down beside her corpse. (That movie has so many problems, but I LOVE that creepy ass moment.) Still, I think I might have to go back to the original film, when Sidney shoots Billy in the head as he tries to come back for one last scare. That was pretty awesome, especially the first time you watched it.

1. Erin (Sharni Vinson) – You’re Next

I reviewed this movie only last week, so I don’t know I have anything particularly new or insightful to say here. But if you’ll allow me to briefly sum up: Erin takes out seven people in this movie, six of whom are bad guys and five of whom actively try to kill her at least once. She tries her best to keep everyone alive, and she might have managed it, too, if three of her supposed allies weren’t actually evil, money-grubbing bastards. Erin improvises, sets traps, and kills her attackers with all manner of weapons, including blenders. I can’t tell you how much I want to see a crossover fanfiction where she and a now grown up (and presumably much darker) Kevin McAllister defend their position with whatever they can find around the house.

I also really like that Erin’s not an obvious badass from the beginning, that she seems like a relatively normal, well-adjusted person who just happens to have grown up on a survivor compound. I like that her past helps her survive, is a part of her, but doesn’t define her throughout the entire movie. That’s a nice touch.

Erin’s best moment? No question. It’s gotta go to the blender kill. That was AMAZING.

Well, there you have it, folks. There’s my list, only one week past Halloween. Don’t see any of your favorite final girls? Think there were worthier contenders? Sound off in the comments below.

“I Don’t Want Your Suffering! I Don’t Want Your Future!”

X-Men, I enjoyed. X2, I really enjoyed. X-Men: The Last Stand remains the most disappointing film I’ve ever seen in theater, ever. X-Men Origins: Wolverine was ridiculous, and yet bothers me considerably less than The Last Stand, probably because that movie had already crushed all the expectations out of me. X-Men: First Class, I enjoyed, except for what happened with all the female characters. The Wolverine . . . well, I never actually saw that one. I didn’t have to. “X-Men” wasn’t in the title.

X-Men: Days of Future Past, though. That I obviously had to see.

I’ll admit, my interest wasn’t all that high, despite Bryan Singer’s return to the franchise — but I actually had a pretty decent time, all in all.

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10 Awful Sequel Titles

Well, we have a title for the upcoming Batman vs Superman movie, and it’s very sad indeed: Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Many people object to the ‘v’ in that title, arguing that ‘v’ is almost exclusively used for court cases rather than superhero battles. They aren’t wrong, but I honestly don’t care all that much — my disgust is solely for the words ‘Dawn of Justice.’ And it’s not that I don’t get it — this will be the dawn of the Justice League, blah blah blah — but really, how do you say that title with a straight face? ‘Dawn of Justice’ sounds like the hit song in a superhero musical parody. (Someone please write that for me. Robyn? Please?)

In honor of this particularly lousy title, I was inspired to search for some other terrible film titles — all of which are sequels and only some of which I’ve actually seen. I spent a whole ten minutes researching this — because I’m a lazy bum who’d rather be reading her book right now — so feel free to comment if there are names you feel should have made the list. (Remember, though, this is about the quality of the title, not the movie itself — although, admittedly, there does seem to be some correlation between the two.)

10 Awful Sequel Titles

10. Star Trek Into Darkness

This is just a grammar issue. The colon is a time-honored tradition in the sequel title business. You will see it up and down this list — why did we get rid of it here, why? Someone just fucked up on the press release, didn’t they? Someone made a typo, and the studio was forced to pretend, “No, no, we totally MEANT for it to be like that. Really. That’s how all the cool sequels use punctuation these days — by NOT fucking use it. Ha! Take that, Mrs. Mooney — fuck tenth grade English!”

(I know I’m being awfully snotty for a girl who slaps em dashes around like they’re going out of style and uses commas whenever she feels like it for dramatic effect. I don’t care. Use the colon, dammit!)

9. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace

This didn’t seem to make anyone else’s lists, but I don’t care. Menace is a hard word to take seriously in a title — qualifying it with the word ‘phantom’ does not make it any better. When I hear ‘The Phantom Menace,’ the very first thing I think is . . . well, okay, the first thing I really think is “fucking midichlorians,” but THEN I think, “Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Rejected Titles for New Melodramatic Opera”. (Also on that list? Singing Whiners. Seriously. I know I shouldn’t judge that play off of one film adaptation . . . but I do. Whiners, the lot of ’em.)

8. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

Actually, this is factually true. Money, in fact, does not sleep. On its own, money doesn’t do very much at all. Because it’s an inanimate object. Assholes.

7. The X-Files: I Want to Believe

Look, I get it: ‘I want to believe’ is a key catchphrase for the show. I even liked it while watching the show back in the day — ‘I want to believe’ is basically how I would sum up my thirteen year old self’s stance on spirituality and the supernatural in general. But as a movie title, it mostly makes me think of gospel songs, or possibly George Michael.

I now have “Faith” stuck in my head. I hope you’re happy, movie.

6. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

. . . look, it’s just a dumb title, okay? If Indiana Jones has found himself in a 1980’s sword and sorcery movie, it probably wouldn’t bother me, but this . . . no. No bueno. Boo.

5. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Yes, I’m aware this movie hasn’t even come out yet. I don’t care. How awkward is this name? Seriously, there is no excuse for repeating the words ‘of the’ in a seven-word title. Also, I’m starting to think ‘dawn’ doesn’t work particularly well for me, unless it’s immediately followed by ‘of the dead.’

4. Howling III: The Marsupials

So, here’s the thing: I haven’t actually seen this movie, and I’m a little unclear if the film is supposed to be a pure parody, or if it’s supposed to be a tongue-in-cheek horror film. Because those are different things to me. Scream is tongue-in-cheek. Scary Movie is pure parody. The word ‘marsupials’ can turn up, I suppose, in the title of an intentionally ridiculous crapfest, but if there’s even one scene that wants you to take it seriously or make you scared . . . no. This is unacceptable. (Also, it just kind of makes me sad that this movie title exists at all. I mean, bad sequels happen to every franchise, particularly horror ones, but no matter how much Scream 3 sucked monkeyballs, it wasn’t, like, Scream 3: Koala Bears vs Ghostface or something. I feel bad for The Howling, and honestly, I didn’t even LIKE The Howling all that much.)

3. Live Free or Die Hard

Look, Die Hard is a stupid name. We all know that. Die Harder is just funny. Die Hard with a Vengeance is similarly terrible. But nothing quite beats out Live Free or Die Hard because seriously: what does that even MEAN? Are we supposed to live like John McClane, an alcoholic cop who’s separated from his wife more days than not and whose kids really only like him when he’s saving their lives from cyber terrorists? Don’t get me wrong — I like McClane — but I really hope that’s not our definition of living free these days. And if we’re not old, cantankerous bastards who punch out our problems and fear technology . . . does this mean we, too, have to die hard? Because the likelihood of my being able to take out a helicopter with a car seems, well, not very.

2. Rambo: First Blood Part II

This title is unacceptable. It is ridiculously confusing. You would think, from the title, that this particular movie is a sequel to Rambo. You would be wrong. The first movie is First Blood. Then we get Rambo: First Blood Part II. Then we get Rambo III, and finally we get fucking Rambo. I mean, seriously. WHAT THE HELL? Why, WHY would you put Rambo in front of the fucking colon? Whoever came up with the title of this movie . . . buddy, you deserve to be slapped around with a dead, stinky fish, all right.

1. Quantum of Solace

Look, I don’t ask a lot from the title of a James Bond movie. You wanna name your spy movie Octopussy? Fine, have at it. But I DO expect that those titles won’t remind me of a)  emotional denouements or b) fucking PHYSICS. I have never lost interest in a movie so fast as when I heard the title Quantum of Solace. Like, I don’t usually make decisions based solely on the title of a movie, no matter how cheesy it is. (I still intend to see Dawn of Justice, and — with a few caveats — I generally enjoy the Die Hard movies.) But once I heard the name Quantum of Solace, I was like, “Peace, bitches, I’m out.” And I’d really liked Casino Royale, too, much to my shock. I was just seeing it because my friend wanted to.

I have still not seen Quantum of Solace. And you know what? I still don’t really need to. (Although, admittedly, shitty reviews have something to do with that too.)

“I’m With You Till The End of The Line.”

Every year, there’s at least one movie I’m absolutely dying to see, and this year it was Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Events conspired against me — websites lying about movie times, a massive headache pulsing down the entire right side of my face and making me a little sick if the camera spun to fast — but I did it. I successfully watched my movie.

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And it was awesome.

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